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All rights reserved on ALL content, including photographs and text. THIS MATERIAL IS FOR THE SOLE USE OF SETDECOR MAGAZINE and the SDSA. Reproduction or use of the material in any way or by any means for any purpose without permission from the Set Decorators Society of America is strictly prohibited.


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Dolly Parton and Anne D. McCulley SDSA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner 2016



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Anne on set!



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SILVERADO with Actor Danny Glover



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PURPLE RAIN with Prince



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AIRPLANE



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ELENOR AND FRANKLIN



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KINDERGARDEN COP with Arnold Swartzeneggar



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NUTS with Barbara Streisand



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BIG TOP PEE WEE with Paul Ruebens



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RUTHLESS PEOPLE with Danny DeVito



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THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU ARE DEAD with Andy Garcia



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THE WAR OF THE ROSES with Kathleen Turner



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WORKING 9 TO 5 with Jane Fonda



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SILVERADO with Kevin Kline


Anne D. McCulley SDSA Earl Cooperman Lifetime Achievement Award 2016

On April 10, 2016 The Set Decorators Society of America honored Anne D. McCulley with its Earl Cooperman Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award is given yearly at the SDSA Annual Award Luncheon to retired Set Decorator whose body of work and contribution of personal ethic and comportment highlight the visibility of the art of Set Decoration and influence current and future Set Decorators.

Ms. McCulley was present at the ceremony to receive her award. Introduced by long-time friends, Set Decorator Mary Ann Biddle who recalled Ann as the first woman "leadman" in the business and the first woman to work up the studio ranks into Set Decoration, no small feat at the time! and Actress Susan Howard, who likened Anne to football great Peyton Manning in her graciousness, tenacity, decency and her 100% all in spirit. In accepting her award, Ms McCulley regaled the Luncheon attendees with a beautiful and lyrical speech that left the entire room of attendees with eyes moist, hearts full and spirits flamed.

Congratulations to Anne D. McCulley, 2016 Recipient of the Earl Cooperman Lifetime Achievement Award.

The film was produced and edited by Gregory Gast/Syncopated Video


Anne D. McCulley SDSA 2016 Earl Cooperman Lifetime Achievement Award from SDSA Set Decorators on Vimeo.


Anne was born in Chattanooga Tennessee, attended the University of Tennesee with a major in Interior design. She began a small design practice there, and did quite well doing homes and offices.

 

In the early 1970’s, she moved to California where she continued her small business, and designed homes for clients in Malibu and marina del rey, where she lived.

 

A friend  who was a producer at Universal, suggested she might enjoy the business of set decorating. She was doing well with her small business, but always felt there was something more that she wanted to do, but couldn’t put her finger on what it was.  A sort of…destiny!  

 

Taking her portfolio to the heads of art departments at all the studios, she found no one wanted to hire her in the property department, eventhough they were about to take in women for the first time. The question she was asked by all of them, was, could she lift a baby grand piano.

She thought this was a strange request that they appeared to have all settled on to show her she had no business there. Her final stop was Universal, and Bill DiCences was head of the Art Department there. He decided to take a chance on her in Property, as there were no openings for Set Decorators at the time. She worked in Property for two years, working on various TV series. She then became the first female Leadperson , and that was working for Jerry Adams on Columbo. From Jerry, she learned a great deal about color, and how it photographed on film, which is quite different from what we see with the naked eye. She learned the difference between spatial design on film, as opposed to general Interior Design, and how to use light to the advantage of film. 

 

She became a Set Decorator in 1975, working on various Universal series. She was  the first woman to achieve the goal of becoming a Set Decorator from the Property Department. 

 

After 3 years of that, an opportunity came to her from Dan Curtis, who was directing “Eleanor and Franklin, the White House Years”. She would be working with Jan Scott, a Production Designer she had always admired. It would require her leaving Universal, which had been her home studio for 5 years, but she was ready for the challenge. 

 

This Production would put her back into the world of antiques, which had always been one of her first loves. She had such a wonderful time choosing all the lovely pieces that make up the White House, and creating designs for draperies. Textiles had drawn her, many years before, into the world of Interior Design, and now she had the opportunity to make those gifts shine. She was nominated for her first Emmy on that show, and she won.

 

“Airplane!” Was her first feature film, and it was a comedy. Anne had never done a comedy, so it was a challenge once again.

She had come from dramas, so there was a lot to learn, once again. But through her career she had many of them to come, and loved doing them. She learned that Directors of comedies have a unique take on the sets, sometimes the set itself is to be funny, sometimes not, but colors and styles are quite different from dramas, most of the time. She continued to work with the Zucker Brothers off and on during her career. 
 













AIRPLANE

“9 to 5” was another comedy, and was her favorite film. The cast and the crew coalesced in a unique way, because it was a very long shoot. Dolly Parton sang and played for us during very long lighting times, and the women of the cast and crew sang background on the demo of 9 to 5, the song. The women also went to exercise class together at Jane Fonda’s gym. It was a very happy time. 

 

“Silverado” was a joy to work on, and it reminded her of her first days in the Property Department, when she worked for Bob Bradfield on Hec Ramsey, an early western for television. Bob had allowed her to dress sets on a regular basis when she first began. The public has always loved a good western, and this one, shot outside Santa Fe, was a classic with it’s bars and typical western fare.
 


SILVERADO
 

Anne always tried to move seamlessly from television to film throughout her career. Having started in television, she felt the main difference between the two was time and money. She never felt that one couldn’t do both. Film does require more finesse, because you see more of the sets, in most cases, but you have the time to do that. She always tried to put the most detail possible into her work, whatever medium she was in. 

 

“Purple Rain” was a unique experience, because it was a musical. A lot of the film focused on Prince’s stage productions, and I found him to be a consummate professional. No matter how many takes, always hitting his marks and performing exactly the same. He was also a fine young actor, and a delight to work with. 
 


PURPLE RAIN
 

For those young Set Decorators coming into the business, I’d say, just do your job with the highest integrity. It is a job that is not for everyone. It is high-stress, and many times working without the manpower, money and time that you need. You need an ability to kick into high gear with energy and emotion for the work at hand. Analyze your characters. Know them well, before you begin to design the sets for them. Make each character come alive with their sets, so that before the actor steps on stage, you know who that character is. Through their hobbies, the books they would read, their furnishings, think of everything that makes them come alive. tend to every detail of their lives so that when the actor arrives, that becomes part of their performance as well. 



RUTHLESS PEOPLE

Take care to get to know the heads of al
l the other departments. After you’ve shown your boards of your designs to the Director, share them with the Costume Designer and the Cinematographer, and of course you will be working closely with the Production Designer and the Property Master. This prevents surprises that can be costly.

Film is a collaborative business. If one is unwilling to collaborate, this is not the business for you.


The reward for the work, is a beautifully finished set that not only pleases the Decorator, but is easily shot and appreciated by the Director and the actors. It must work for the scene, whether high key, or down and dirty, one needs to get it right. That, after all, is the final goal!

 

Anne D. McCulley SDSA Film & Television Set Decorator credits:

 

Film

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 

GARFIELD 2 

NATIONAL TREASURE 

ANTWONE FISHER 

IMPOSTOR 

THE MUSE 

OUT TO SEA 

ABSOLUTE POWER 

SHADOW CONSPIRACY 

MOTHER 

THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD 

THE NET 

THE CLIENT 

MY LIFE 

NOWHERE TO RUN 

KINDERGARTEN COP 

THE WAR OF THE ROSES 

TROOP BEVERLY HILLS 

BIG TOP PEE-WEE 

NUTS 

THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN 

RUTHLESS PEOPLE 

THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE 

SILVERADO 

PURPLE RAIN 

STAR 80 

CLASS REUNION 

MODERN PROBLEMS 

CHARLIE CHAN AND THE CURSE OF THE DRAGON QUEEN 

NINE TO FIVE 

AIRPLANE! 

 

Television 

HEAD CASES - TV Series 

IRON JAWED ANGELS - TV Movie

61* - TV Movie – Emmy® nomination

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE  - TV Series Pilot

LEGALESE - TV Movie 

HOMEFRONT* - TV Series – Emmy® nomination

ABC WEEKEND SPECIALS: THE BIG HEX OF LITTLE LULU 

BACKSTAIRS AT THE WHITE HOUSE* - TV Mini-series – Emmy® nomination

THE GATHERING* - TV Movie – Emmy® nomination

SWITCH - TV Series 

 

 

 



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